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Dee Young's Delight
First time out at the NSRA Billing Fun Run on June 1/2nd, Dee picked up the Participant's Choice Trophy
For British-based rodders who regularly check out the US hot rod websites or read the specialist magazines, the sight of Dee Young’s 1931 Ford roadster pick-up at the recent Billing Fun Run may well have had them scratching their heads, for the car, although new to the UK scene, seemed somehow vaguely familiar.
Intrigued, DRC Review met up with Dee’s hubbie, Steve Young, a well-known, Guildford-based rodder who has owned a variety of early Ford machinery, including his current ’29 Model A Roadster, to find out what the story was behind the sharp yellow pick-up. The first question had to be: why did the car look so familiar?
“I guess because it’s the 2004 NSRA Street Rod Nationals giveaway car,” explains Steve, with obvious amusement that his wife’s new set of wheels has been recognised. “It was built by Cornhuskers Hot Rods in Nebraska, using parts donated by some of the best-known companies in the States.”
That cleared up the mystery, but raised a number of other questions, including how the car had found its way to these shores. Steve took up what turned out to be a fascinating story.
Lengthened cab and shortened bed contribute to lovely proportions
“The first thing to explain is that Dee has really wanted a fenderless rod for some time,” says Steve. “Initially, I saw the pick-up advertised on eBay and hotrodhotline.com, and it looked interesting. The listing time on eBay ended without the car meeting its reserve, so I e-mailed the guy who was advertising it to see if it was still for sale. It turned out he had been selling the car on behalf of the owner – a lovely guy, as it turned out, called Don Sangster, who lived in Wenatchee, Washington. After speaking with him on the ’phone and looking at more photos, we struck a deal and I wired him the money, but on the understanding that I would come out to see the car, and if it wasn’t up to scratch, he would refund every penny. I was reassured by the fact he agreed to the arrangement without hesitation.
“Martin Kelly – another long-time Surrey rodder – and I then flew to Seattle via Las Angeles, with the plan of renting a car and driving up to Wenatchee. When we arrived and went to collect our small hatchback, we were offered an upgrade at a ridiculously low price and advised that it would probably be a good idea to do so, as the drive would take us up into the mountains and there was quite a lot of snow about. We ended up with a Dodge Hemi quad cab 4x4 pick-up, which was just the job.
“When we got to Wenatchee, it turned out Don Sangster owned a local Pontiac dealership, Sangster Motors, and aside from the pick-up, he also had a couple of rods and ’60s muscle cars in his collection. The pick-up just wasn’t getting used, and hence his decision to sell it. When I saw the car, it was better than in the photographs, so we shook on the deal. We then turned in the pick-up, rented a larger truck and loaded the Model A in the back, as Don recommended we not drive it on the local roads, given the chemicals used to keep them free of snow and ice.”
There followed an amazingly busy few days for Steve and Martin, as they drove down through Oregon to San Francisco, dropped off the rental truck, unloaded the pick-up, visited Roy Brizio’s shop and then headed down scenic Highway 1 in Dee’s new car to Newport Beach, eventually arriving at 2am.
The dynamic duo were up again a few hours later, and off to their eventual destination, the Good Guys Nationals at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. In the course of three highly enjoyable days at the show, Steve and Martin met a load of fellow rodders, purchased another car – and picked up a trophy for the pick-up!
Barely pausing to draw breath, they were on the road again Sunday afternoon, heading for Yorba Linda, where they stayed two nights before their purchases, including the pick-up, were loaded in a container for the sea voyage back to the UK. Such is the efficiency of containerised transport these days that just four-and-a-half weeks later, Steve – by now, back home – received a call from Kingston Shipping to say that Dee’s car had arrived.
But what of the car itself?
It’s based on a steel 1931 Model A Roadster Pick-up cab, supplied by Brookville, which has been lengthened by 6 inches at the rear. These days, the highly regarded, Ohio-based company produces an extended-cab version, but as Steve points out, the build of this car commenced in late 2002, so it could be unveiled in 2003, and given away in 2004. At that time, Brookville didn’t produce a “long-cab” body, so they lengthened one specifically for the build of the NSRA giveaway car. Once Cornhusker had taken delivery of the modified cab, staff then removed 8 inches from the pick-up bed in order to balance the overall appearance.
Other subtle metalworking touches included pie-cutting the cowl and lowering it at the front, plus removing 2 inches from the top of the Model B grille shell and adding a similar amount at the bottom, the result being to lower the surround in relation to the chassis, but permit the retention of the standard Ford grille insert.
The major components, including potent 350 cu in GM Performance Parts ZZ4 engine and shift kit-equipped Turbo 350 transmission, plus Walker radiator and Tanks Inc stainless steel fuel tank, were then bolted to a frame built up from American Stamping rails. This incorporated a Cornhusker boxing kit and crossmember, Pete and Jake’s dropped front end, SO-CAL vee spreader bar and hairpins, faux Buick front drums, concealing disc brakes, and headlamp stands. The back end of the car boasts a similarly high specification, including a Winters quick-change and Currie halfshafts, suspended from POSIES quarter-elliptic springs, combined with tubular shock absorbers and ladder bars.
“The elimination of the coil-overs in the rear makes for a very clean installation,” observes Steve. “The car also rides beautifully with this set-up. I am sufficiently impressed that I will probably go the same route on my current project, which happens to be a Model A pick-up, but to a rather different spec from this one.”
A Ron Francis wiring kit connects all of the electrical components, while other finishing touches include a Cornhusker column, Giuliano’s steering wheel and lap belts. Lincoln Auto Trim stitched the eye-catching red upholstery, while local striper, “Montana”, laid down the lines. Steve reports that the car also came with a beautifully made, black, mohair-finish top – “It looks that nice, I almost prefer the car with it than without it, and there’s not many times I feel that way about a roadster top,” he says.
Rear end treatment is particulalry clean and simple
Since the car’s arrival in the UK – accompanying it were the 2004 NSRA winner’s tee-shirt, artwork and bound copies of Street Scene magazine, detailing the build – Steve and Dee have made one or two changes to suit their tastes. The red grille insert with which the Model A was supplied has been replaced with a stainless steel item, and the square-shouldered radial tyres, which wrapped the Vintique steel wheels with their Bob Drake caps and rings, have made way for Firestone wide-white crossplies. “To our eyes, the sidewall size and shape of the original tyres just wasn’t right,” explains Steve. “By comparison, the crossplies, with their taller, more rounded sidewalls, provide just the right sort of look for a car like this.”
Steve, who picked up the rodding bug as a youngster from his father, is understandably enthusiastic about this latest addition to the Young family garage. “We looked at loads of cars while trying to find a car for Dee, but we just kept coming back to a fenderless hot rod pick-up,” he says. “When this one came up, it seemed to fit the bill perfectly, and combined with the great sterling-US dollar rate at the moment, it was just too good to turn down. Dee loves it to bits, and as with all our cars, we’ll try and drive it as much as possible.”
It sounds to us like this particular prize car has found just the right home.
Story: Graham Jones
Photos: Andy Kirk